Cadaveric Spasm

Episode Card - Forgotten Lady

In “Forgotten Lady,” Janet Leigh is Grace Wheeler, an actress from the heyday of big movie musicals, who wants nothing more than to once again feel the white hot heat of stardom. When her wealthy husband refuses to put up the scratch for her big comeback, she murders him and tries to make it look like a suicide. As Lt. Columbo digs deeper, however, the story proves to be even more tragic than that. Also discussed- Dorothy Kilgallen conspiracies, Angela Lansbury exercise videos and much, much more.

Jon and RJ are joined by Kevin Klawitter (@KevinKlawitter), who recently co-directed a stage production of Prescription Murder, the headwaters from which all things Columbo flow. In fact, the show is being staged again this August as a dinner theater production! Click here for tickets and details, if you’re in the Wadena/Fergus Falls/Battle Lake, MN area this summer.

13 comments on “Cadaveric Spasm

  1. A brilliant tragic episode that shows Columbo’s humanist compassion. I am so happy I found your podcast, which is funny and insightful. Listening to your analyses increases my enjoyment of the episodes — thank you!

  2. Ok but Minneapolis-St. Paul is the third largest theater market in the U.S. after New York and Chicago. There is a lot of professional theater here.

    We are so going to do a road trip to see prescription murder in Battle Lake…

  3. Great podcast, as usual. Love that episode of Columbo. After watching several times, I started to try to figure out when exactly “Grace Wheeler” no longer recalls killing her husband. I feel like she doesn’t remember doing it, by the time she is in front of her vanity mirror, and hears Raymond knocking on her husband’s door. Once she is frantically knocking herself, I think it is definitely out of her recall. What does everybody think?

    As an aside – I wonder how many people on Columbo episodes, take sleeping pills before going to bed?

    1. I think that’s pretty much where I pegged it, as well. She gets lost somewhere in that mirror, thinking about her past glory, and by the time she’s alerted that something’s wrong … well, she’s in a completely different place.

  4. Another cracking podcast, really adding great colour to a great episode.

    Must get around to ranking those episodes, too…

  5. Changing the Columbo rules seems to be a thing for most of season 5. Case of Immunity and A Matter of Honor take Columbo out of his jurisdiction, Last Salute to the Commodore has its own kink on the formula. When I was going through the show on Netflxi, it stood out as the production team trying to prevent the show from getting stale (and looking at the episode list for s5, Now You See Him feels like a real throwback, I remembered that as being much earlier in the show’s history).

  6. Living in the Twin Cities I was stoked when I heard this stage production was going to be in MN…. but alas after looking it up that’s a bit of a hike from the metro area. Best of luck with the second go around.

    Regardless, thanks for the great podcast. Also, you used the word “dicky” to describe the husband’s perceived attitude. So great. Have you ever noticed the telltale sign of the murderer is always to speculate alternative means of the murder as if to throw suspicion or skew the investigation? This episode is one of the few that doesn’t follow that format. Perhaps its because her dementia means she truly has forgotten.

  7. Just one more thing about the Tonight Show episode that the servants were watching the night of the murder. Since Johnny mentioned several people who’d be on the show the next week, it sure seemed to be a Friday night show. The problem is, the murder was committed on a Thursday!

    Columbo returned to the house the day after the murder to speak with Grace. During their conversation, Raymond came and told Grace that her vocal instructor had arrived. A confused Grace said that he only came on Fridays. “This is Friday,” Raymond replied.

    Maybe it was a Best Of Carson!

  8. Wow what a great episode but with one big problem! How much can we really smypathise with Grace? The standard view point is she seems to forget she killed her husband almost as soon as she does it (the vanity mirror scene). Also her expression when Columbo sits with her at the dance studio and tells her he wants to make sure her husband really did commit suicide, it looked to me like she had completely forgotten he was dead and was being told for the first time and frightened she had forgot. Which is a horrible thought.
    Or is she just a brilliant actress??
    Taking the devils advocate point of view her memory is good enough to know her husband will disapprove of her decision to go back into the movie business, so she decides in advance to kill him. She gets the drugs, gun and an alibi. She then acts so brilliantly Columbo falls for it. Even though she does display some obvious guilty traits, like befriending Columbo, but annoyed he is always around, she offers him an explanation for his problems..her husband forgot to turn down the page of his book instead of the obvious he fell to sleep reading it and someone else closed it. Then she lets her former lover, (who she actually hates for ruining her career and was only using to get back in the game) take the rap for her. Is the true grace the one we see in flashes of anger and diva behaviour? Or is it the sweet lost child like grace whose brain tumor makes her irrationality?
    Is this the first time Columbo is tricked by a killer? Or is his sympathy well deserved (as I hope it is)

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